As It Was At The Beginning, So It Is At The End
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
“I like you reading to me”, Mum said.
I was reading to her only about five days before she passed away. It was a signed copy of the new Michael Asher book “Lawrence – The Uncrowned King” which I had picked up from a Monday night lecture at the Royal Geographical Society in London a month or so before.
I often read to Mummy, especially after she got ill and her eyes did not work well.
I used to try and give each character a different voice. She said that she liked it.
Little did I believe a week later, she would be gone. It was one of those unbelievable truths, yet there it was; truth.
Growing up, we had a huge collection of Ladybird books. Our parents had bought the books primarily for my older sister of five years, but that is one of the merits of being the younger; nearly everything has been bought already.
We had every colour, including, of course, the classic series of Janet and John.
We also had Fairy Tales and Historical Biographies.
It seemed like we had all of them. They were great!
Our mother was not the best at reading. As a result of illness, she had suffered a poor education; nevertheless, she persevered and read to me often as I was growing up. She was honest about this, yet she always ensured that both my sister and I were often reading.
She often skipped the long words in books as she read them to us as children.
One of my favourite anecdotes relating to this was when she was reading the story Rapunzel. The word Rapunzel was a challenge for her, yet she knew there was a type of lettuce called Rapunzel. So when reading the story to us as we sat on the sofa next to her when we were young, she skipped the heroine’s name in the fairy tale and instead replaced it with the word ‘lettuce’.
The story would go, “Lettuce! Lettuce! Throw down your hair!” and we didn’t know that it was wrong since we didn’t know that the words she was saying were not the same as those printed in the book.
Later, when in school, as a teacher asked us to share with her our favourite fairy tale, I recall being eager to raise my hand trying to answer the question.
I said my favourite fairy tale was “Lettuce”, as it was known in our house.
Of course, this resulted in howls of laughter and a feeling of idiocy on my part.
Thus began my first lesson in English. Words are important!
Most interestingly, whenever we went to museums, stately homes, galleries or castles, and that happened a lot in our childhood, all of the info cards would need to be read in full out loud to our mother.
It was clever, she would help us if there was a word we could not read, and she ensured our reading had practice with a chat time and again. Occasionally, we might take turns to give us kids a break, but invariably, it was us reading to Mum.
On reflection, after all these years, I know that she tried her best and her methods of everyday reading practice at every given opportunity were innovative.
Her approach was also so subtle that it never occurred to me that it was out of necessity to overcome either her inability to read or a lack of confidence.
Nevertheless, the result was positive, and both my sister and I are committed, life-long learners.